Access Pollywood: The “Dog Whisperer” Takes D.C.

by Elizabeth Harvey

Cesar Millan talks canine psychology, D.C. and his philosophy on life after a live taping at Nat Geo headquarters.

Cesar and Andre Millan travel cross-country in their RV to film Dog Nation.

Cesar and Andre Millan travel cross-country in their RV to film “Dog Nation.”

“I said, ‘I don’t want to be an architect – that’s boring! You know, I wanna be a Dog Guy.’ So I became!”

Cesar Millan has built an impressive career in television and media on precisely this kind of frank, self-confident commentary.

As a New York Times best selling author and host of the Emmy-nominated reality series “Dog Whisperer,” Millan combines the wisdom of a guru, the insight of a therapist and the nerve of a lion-tamer to solve the most problematic cases of unruly canines. Millan’s miraculous method is based in practicing “calm and assertive” energy and maintaining a firm pack order. What makes him so unique – and so effective – is this evolved perspective. His fundamental motto is, “I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.

Victor the Pomeranian on the road.

Victor the Pomeranian on the road.

Millan’s latest series for Nat Geo WILD, “Dog Nation,” premieres in February 2017. For the first time, the show will follow Millan away from his home base in California as he travels across the U.S. meeting with fans, performing live and working with local charities. He has also added a special new member to his team (along with the usual entourage of furry friends, big and small): his 22-year-old son and host of the Nat Geo show “Pet Talk,” Andre Millan.

On September 19, the Millans rolled into D.C. in their large orange RV. It’s hard to miss, considering that its sides are plastered with blown up photos of their beaming faces. The dynamic duo met with the non-profit organization Fidelco, which trains German Shepherds to become guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired. Fidelco is particularly significant to the world of D.C. philanthropy because of the extensive work that the organization does for veterans.

Cesar and Andre's RV.

Cesar and Andre’s RV, parked outside National Geographic on M Street.

The Millans then headed to the National Geographic headquarters on M Street to tape the live show. Cesar Millan charmed the audience of locals – and Mayor Muriel Bowser – with jokes about fame, politics and Mexican stereotypes. Afterwards, I had the chance to sit down with both of them to learn more about their father-son road trip.

Washington Life: After all of your experience doing shows with Nat Geo, what about this new show is different? What are you hoping to bring to the public with “Dog Nation?” 
Cesar Millan: It’s to connect with the nation and really to create one nation. Everybody is trying to help dogs but we’re separate from each other. I think if we act more collectively, more like a pack, you know… my job is to unify [the dog world], to showcase that there are a lot of great people in America doing amazing things – I want to bring them in. I want to show the world that we don’t have problems with dogs. And of course I want to take the time to visit the fans. There’s also the live experience – a lot of times people think that what I do is edited, but once you see it live…then you become a believer. Watching the show you become a fan, but watching it live you become a believer.

WL: What led you to choose Fidelco over all of the other organizations in D.C?
CM: It’s a no brainer – what they do for the people, and what the people get from the dog. It’s true, a lot of times vets don’t get the recognition and the help they need. Now it’s time for us to give something back to them. Fidelco shows that we are grateful for what they did, and we want to support their freedom, we want to support their re-entering back to America. By having these kinds of programs, it allows these people to integrate in a much easier way, because the dog makes you human.

WL: Do you guys have plans to do anything in D.C. before you get going?
CM: Well, we have three more days here, and we love food. Like really – we love food. That’s one of the things that is a deal-breaker for me. If we’re going to a place where the food sucks, I just don’t want to go. I told Andre, “Listen, food feeds the soul.” I reward myself with food. [That’s my] only “diva moment.” I’m looking at America through [Andre’s] eyes. Now that at least one of my kids is with me – I can see the world; I want to do “Dad Things.” I’ve been here many times but I’ve never actually experienced it that way.

WL: Since your show brings you to New York, D.C., Philadelphia – all of these cities full of amazing universities – have you ever thought about starting a program for animal studies students?
CM: I’ve always told my business manager that, because I’m at that point that I don’t have to work that much, and I do want to make sure that I reach into the schools – like, “Hey, guys, you are very smart but let me tell you something about common sense!” [I have] clients who are Harvard graduates, but they can’t walk a Chihuahua! My clients are famous, very powerful, and they have a lot of money – but the dogs don’t know that. What the dog knows is how you feel, which is an instinctual ability. So yeah, I would love to go to universities, and get that intellectual youth that’s about to control the world – but they’re going to be controlled by their dogs [laughs].

Andre Millan: That’s why I feel like I can help a lot, because I am twenty-two – that’s my age, my generation – and the way you address them and the way you can connect to them is obviously way different from the way he and his generation connect.

WL: What cities are up next?
CM: After here we’re going to Chicago, or Missouri…?

AM: No, Chicago and St. Louis. Two different states – he doesn’t know that.

CM: I don’t know – I just go! Like a dog, you know, he doesn’t know where you take him. He just knows it smells different and it’s a different energy. I pretty much just live that lifestyle. It works for me. I’m very in the moment. It takes all the stress out! I’m very happy with my world, of assessing and evaluating, and making people laugh, and making people learn. That’s my thing, right there.

The D.C. episode of “Dog Nation” will air this February on Nat Geo WILD.

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